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Contatta Romolini Immobiliare


The term villa was first born in the Latin period with a totally different meaning than the one we use it today for. Romans used the word with reference to their countryside residences constituting the heart of a farming business. They used the two nomenclature rustic villa and urban villa.

In the beginning, the rustic villa was a simple family-run business, where a family only produced what they needed to live. With the expansion of Rome’s dominion in the late Republican period, villa changed quickly expanding in size (200 – 250 hectares of land). The agricultural business, thanks to the numerous slaves ending up in Italy following the military campaigns, grew and allowed the owners to produce not just the minimum necessary to live but a surplus to be sold to the markets of the whole Europe.

The majority of Roman villas were built in central Italy, where implants reached their apex, much like the modern capitalistic economy. Production ranged from extensive plantations (olive trees and vines) to intensive production, orchards and even pastures.

Given the ability required to run such a business, several authors of the period started writing down some real agronomy treaty such as De agri cultura (Cato the Elder) and De re rustica (Marcus Terentius Varro).

The urban villa, conversely, started its life as a suburban residence, not far from the city and intended as a retreat from the city life for short/long periods of time. In time, these villas ended up incorporated (totally or partially) into the cities growing even bigger than the noble Domus and losing their (albeit minimal) agricultural function to become luxury residences surrounded by gardens and parks. It was not uncommon to find private thermal baths, libraries (extremely rare at the time) and even gyms.

With the fall of Rome, the villa radically changed its function. Barbaric invasions and the following period of war and violence convinced more and more noblemen to seek refuge away from the cities in fortified dwelling usually built on top of a hill. These residences inherited the functions of the Roman villa, being self-sufficient but not run using slaves. These fortified villas were the initial stage of the future process of encastellation in the feudal age.

Only during the Renaissance, with the treaties De re aedificatoria and Villa by Leon Battista Alberti, villas were brought back to their previous function of places for relaxation and idleness. The work by Vitruvius was undoubtedly inspiring and led to the construction of Villa Medici on the hill of Fiesole, first example of a villa where defensive features disappears, and Villa di Poggio a Caiano (Giuliano da Sangallo) which became the archetype for all the following Medicean villas in Tuscany.

16th and 17th century saw the construction of numerous villa around Rome: Villa Madama (designed and started by Raffaello and then completed by Giulio Romano), Villa Albani (not far from Porta Salaria), Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphilj and Villa Giulia are just the most notable examples.

Northern Italy was dominated by Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580) who designed and built unique villas by using a common base model made up of a central cubic body with entrances on the side reached via some beautiful staircases and framed in a pronaos recalling Greek and Roman temple (the Pantheon in Rome in particular).

Starting the in the 19th, and mainly the 20th century, the term villa has been used to refer to any luxury residence (both in the countryside and in the town centers), usually independent and fitted with a private garden. It is not uncommon, however, using the term to indicate a high-level terraced house built in a prestigious location in the city center (think of Monte Mario in Rome) or with a view over the sea (the Zuccale on Elba or the Amalfi Coast).

VILLA IN ITALY FOR SALE | Luxury villas in Italy

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